9 Oak Knoll Seniors Sign Letters of Intent to Continue Athletics in College

Nine members of the Class of 2024 from Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child continued their commitment to athletic competition at the collegiate level by signing National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.

National Signing Day has evolved into a celebratory event for many sports — and today, Oak Knoll celebrates its Division I and Division III committed athletes. This day signifies the first day that student-athletes may sign a binding letter of intent with a higher education institution. While there isn’t a requirement for these aspiring athletes to sign their National Letters of Intent on the initial day of the Signing Period, it has become a traditional practice for many to do so.

Oak Knoll’s signing event occurred in the presence of faculty, staff, and family members in the school’s Tisdall Gymnasium.

Dr. Kelly Childs, Oak Knoll’s Athletic Director, opened the event with a quote from Holy Child Founder Cornelia Connelly.

“Each one of you has had a unique recruitment journey, but as Cornelia Connelly again said, ‘Be Strong in Faith,’ and that you were. Your story is your own, but we are all so happy that Oak Knoll Athletics has been a part of your story.”

The committed student-athletes celebrated today included the following:

1. Maxwell Aranowitz – Field Hockey, University of Pennsylvania

Maxi has been a leader on and off the field during her time at Oak Knoll. She served as her Class President for 10th and 11th grades, was a member of the HOPE committee both years and currently holds the position of Student Body President. In addition to being a four-year varsity field hockey member, Maxi has also been a three-year member of the varsity lacrosse program.

Outside of Oak Knoll, she is a team member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Her favorite class at Oak Knoll was 10th grade English with Ms. Levchuk because she read one of her favorite books and really developed her writing skills.

Maxi is a 2023 Field Hockey co-captain, was First Team All-Union County and All-Conference in 2021 and 2022, First Team All Non-Public in 2022, and was ranked as a Top 50 Field Hockey player in the Class of 2024. Maxi has played an integral role on both field hockey and lacrosse teams, winning County, Sectional, and State Championships.

One of her favorite athletics memories was beating Emmaus this fall because so many news outlets and teams doubted the talent of this program after graduating last year’s seniors. The win over Emmaus started the season with energy and excitement that the team has continued to carry throughout the fall.

When asked what she will miss most about OKS Athletics and what she has learned by being a part of our athletics program, Maxi shared that the programs she has participated in have strived for more than just success and have also taught her how to work hard and have fun doing it. She will never take for granted her Oak Knoll athletics experience because it has brought many memories and life lessons.

2. Maya Bilanin Field Hockey, University of Vermont

Maya is a member of the Ski Club, Angels for Animals Club, which assists animal shelters, and participated in the Oak Knoll Science Fair last year, sharing her love of fish and animals through her aquascaping project. Her passion for wildlife conservation has led her to plan to major in Animal Science at Vermont. Her favorite class at Oak Knoll is Biology, allowing her to continue her work with biological sciences and her passion for wildlife. Maya has grown up with a love of caring for animals and the environment and continues to pursue this passion academically and in her everyday life.

Outside of Oak Knoll, Maya is a member of Youth Group, a lifeguard, and an exotic fish pet store employee. Maya has participated in a sea turtle conservation program in Costa Rica and went on a recent trip to Hawaii with the OKS Science Department to learn more about earth science, environmental science, biology, and geology in the region.

Her favorite Oak Knoll Athletics memory was winning a state championship in field hockey sophomore year. She will miss the closeness of the field hockey team and take with her a hard work ethic and belief that you can beat the odds, no matter what the stats say.

3. Carson Didden – Lacrosse, University of Notre Dame

Carson wears many hats on the Oak Knoll campus, including serving as an Eucharistic Minister, Conduct Review Committee Representative, an Athletic Council Member for three years, and currently is the Senior Class Vice President. Carson is also one of the lacrosse captains this spring.

Outside of Oak Knoll, she coaches club lacrosse and serves as a youth lector at church. Her favorite Oak Knoll class was Honors English sophomore year, where her teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject made the class more enjoyable. They read Jane Eyre, which quickly became one of her favorite books as well.

Carson is an AP Scholar with High Honors and earned Second Team All County and All Division last lacrosse season.

Her favorite Oak Knoll athletics memory was winning the 2023 County Final in lacrosse because the team had been in a bit of a slump going into the game, and everyone showed up for each other, playing their best game of the season to defeat Summit. Through her time as an Oak Knoll student-athlete, Carson has learned how to find motivation from within yourself so that when there are times on the field where you or your teammates need some extra support, she knows how to bring it.

4. Avery Fitzpatrick – Soccer, Gettysburg College

Avery has been a four-year varsity soccer player at Oak Knoll, serving as a team captain this fall. Last fall, she earned First Team Union County, First Team Union County Girls Soccer Association, All Mountain Division, and All Preps First Team. Her favorite Oak Knoll soccer memory was beating Westfield in the county semifinal game this fall, breaking their 52-game win streak.

Outside of Oak Knoll, Avery is an Alpha Leader, volunteers for Bridges Outreach, the Water Island Capital for the annual holiday campaign, the Warehouse New Jersey, a youth leader at Saint Vincent Martyr, and coaches youth soccer in the Madison town program.

Avery plans to major in BioMedical Science, stemming from her love of Honors Biology with Mrs. McNanny. Avery will miss the people the most from her Oak Knoll Athletics experience and credits her coaches and athletic department staff for challenging her to grow as a person and player. She believes there is nothing more powerful than wearing a Royals jersey, as it represents grit, unity, and family, and she’s so blessed to have been a part of it.

Avery plans to take her strong belief that was confirmed again this fall that you can win on any given day, no matter who the opponent is. If you want it bad enough and if you play for the girls around you and your coaches, you will always have a fighting chance.

5. Cat Jordan – Lacrosse, Gettysburg College

Cat is an AP Scholar and Honor Roll student-athlete heading to Gettysburg College to play lacrosse next fall. She is a Eucharistic Minister, Campus Ministry Council Representative, and the Green Team Co-President.

She anticipates majoring in pre-law, and her favorite subject area at Oak Knoll, history, has helped influence this decision. Her favorite class was AP US History, and she credits her teacher for fostering her love for the subject and shares her opinion that “History is one of the greatest predictors of the present and the future, so I think it’s’ important for everyday citizens such as myself to understand and know history…History is everywhere, not just in things like wars. It can be the history of a music genre, of your favorite sport, or even something as simple as  your favorite candy.”

Cat’s favorite Oak Knoll Athletics memory was winning freshman year’s Tournament of Champions in lacrosse. Being down at halftime listening to Coach Gianna’s speech and then watching teammates respond in the second half to win and sprinting onto the field in celebration eventually confirmed her love of the sport and Oak Knoll lacrosse. She will miss the team atmosphere the most, as it is so special and an honor to wear the jersey every single spring.

Cat plans to take her never-give-up attitude to college and beyond, which she developed through playing sports at Oak Knoll.

6. Sophia Loschert – Lacrosse, Georgetown University

Sophia serves as a member of the Athletic Council, co-president of Teens Tackle Homelessness Club, a 9th-grade peer leader, a member of the Junior Twig, a current varsity field hockey player, and a lacrosse team captain in the spring. She is the captain of her street luminary fund and has worked as a counselor for SwaxLax.

Her favorite athletics memories include winning a TOC in lacrosse freshman year, being able to play in a lacrosse and field hockey TOC in the same year, and winning states sophomore year in Field Hockey, and for the past three seasons in lacrosse because it shows how committed and talented we are to work together toward a common goal.

Sophia earned field hockey recognition her sophomore year as All Union County Honorable Mention and All-Union/Essex Conference Honorable Mention. In lacrosse, she was named NJ First Team All Non-Public, All-American, First Team All-State, Prep A First Team, Prep A First Team All-Academic, First Team All-Conference, and First Team Union County. Sophia has 152 career goals going into her senior year.

She will miss most the incredible friendships made between girls in different grades and the effort coaches put into cheering you on and developing your skills, which separates the Oak Knoll Athletics experience from other schools.

7. Jocelyn Monti – Field Hockey, College of the Holy Cross

Joce has served as a Social Council Representative for two years and currently is the Social Council President. She is also a Eucharistic Minister, a Paddle Club member, and a group member for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, raising money to help further blood cancer research.

Outside of Oak Knoll, Joce is a youth minister and works as a hostess at a local restaurant. Her favorite class at Oak Knoll has been Biology because she loved learning about the different body systems and how they all function.

Joce is currently a varsity field hockey team captain and shared that her favorite athletics memory was winning a big game over Emmaus at the start of this season when many people doubted the team would be anything worth watching this fall.

Joce shared, “Hearing about how other high school teams function has truly made me realize just how special Oak Knoll field hockey is. It’s so much more than a team; it’s something you have to earn, not something that is given to you. We have been a consistently exceptional program not solely because of talent but because of the relationship we have with one another.”

8. Kelsey Scully – Lacrosse, Trinity College

Kelsey has been a three-year varsity lacrosse player at Oak Knoll and is serving as a captain this spring. She’s the leader and ambassador of the One Love Club, raising awareness about abuse in relationships. Kelsey formed a OneLove club at Oak Knoll, which became a safe space for our students to talk openly about this issue and also a place to plan for awareness and fundraising. She also made and sold bracelets through a local shop to share the message more widely.

Kelsey is also a Morgans Message Student Ambassador and a Junior Twig club leader. Last year, our Head of School asked Kelsey to serve as a part of the Strategic Plan Committee, a position very few students held, and it gave her a great experience of identifying the needs and finding solutions, skills she uses daily as a student-athlete and team leader.

Her favorite class has been AP Language because of how much she progressed as a writer. Her top Oak Knoll athletics memory was winning the 2023 County Championships, only her second game back from sustaining a torn ACL. Kelsey earned NJIGLL Honorable Mention All-League last season.

Her time on the sideline with an injury allowed Kelsey to develop a deeper appreciation of the sport and an understanding of leadership. She will miss the celebrations with her teammates after big wins against the biggest rivals the most.

9. Grace Smith – Lacrosse, Middlebury College

Grace has been a member of the varsity lacrosse program for four years and is one of the captains this spring. She is also President of the Future Business Leaders of America Club, TedEx co-president, and a peer leader.

Outside of school, Grace is a peer mentor for kids with special needs, a Morgan’s Message student ambassador, a lifeguard, and a club lacrosse coach. Grace supported the Red Cross Blood Drive relaunch earlier this fall, organizing student volunteers and informing the community of the importance of giving blood.

Grace’s favorite Oak Knoll Athletics memory is the lacrosse bus rides, specifically the one home from Sacred Heart in Greenwich. The singing, dancing, celebration post games, or bringing up the mood after a tough loss will stick with her forever.

Her favorite class at Oak Knoll has been AP Computer Science Principles. Grace shared, “Through Oak Knoll sports, I learned the value of practice. We focus on the little things and putting all of our effort into everything we do because it starts in practice, and we play like we practice.”